Automating IT infrastructure amid COVID-19
The pandemic and the resulting economic downturn has made the business case for IT automation clearer than ever and it continues to prove especially important for building resilience in our supply chains. Without extensive automation, it wouldn’t be possible for essential goods from online retailers to get into the hands of consumers at the scale and speed we currently need.
Likewise, automation has supported businesses across many industries in transitioning to remote working, which has proven essential to supply chain continuity amid the crisis. For example, it has allowed operations and security teams to install VPN clients across millions of remote worker’s devices, enabling a smoother and safer transition to a work-from-home model.
New contexts for automation
One of the first and most common use cases for IT automation is in the configuration of computing resources and operating systems, and the provisioning of line-of-business applications. From there, IT automation has evolved to address a significant broader spectrum of processes and tasks. For example, today, some automation engines can be used to set up network devices like routers and switches, rapidly cutting down the time it takes to integrate hardware into business functions like warehouses digitalisation or freight tracking.
Automation can also serve the needs of cybersecurity professionals in unexpected, new ways. Today, CISOs can use certain IT automation solutions to integrate a variety of security products in their portfolio, and to orchestrate how those products jointly perform a triage investigation or an attack remediation. The increased speed in addressing a cyber attack that IT automation can provide is invaluable for a security operations team, often understaffed and overwhelmed by the amount of alerts that a large IT enterprise environment normally generates.
How to approach automation
Automating business processes and operations that have been carried on for years or decades in a manual way can be intimidating or discouraging. One way to address that complexity is to break a big process down into multiple small, more manageable tasks, and focus on those ones that are the easiest to automate; the proverbial low hanging fruit.
Adopting this approach in a disciplined way, an IT organisation can eventually build the foundation necessary to automate its operations. It’s not just a matter of having the right pieces in the right place. This approach helps build the experience in automation and the team’s confidence, which is necessary to succeed.
As an additional benefit, by the time you approach the largest projects, your team should be at the point where they realize and appreciate the value of infrastructure and process standardisation, which enormously helps any automation project. In fact, while standardisation is a critical building block for automation at scale, attempting a massive standardisation before learning how to automate even the simpler tasks can often lead to project failure.
Appointing an internal chief automation architect to have overall responsibility of the automation project is paramount to success. Without someone very familiar with the many processes that govern your organisation, you will lack the oversight necessary to use automation strategically, rather than just as a tactical tool.
How to develop your expertise
If your organisation doesn't have a great deal of experience in automating IT processes, it’s perfectly appropriate to turn to your industry peers for knowledge. Many automation platforms have online marketplaces, which host a vast array of workflows to automate common tasks and applications. Take the time to review the workflows that others have already contributed, and evaluate whether they’re applicable to your IT environment.
Some automation platforms, especially if they derive from popular open source projects, also play host to large communities, which can provide a great network for support and advice. Interact with these communities to discover what is the real total cost of ownership and learning curve for these platforms, and what are the best practices to integrate them into your operations. There are many other organisations in your position, so pooling knowledge is a very effective way to help make this transition.
Businesses have continued to adopt automation during the pandemic as a way to support business continuity, and this has been particularly crucial for logistics and supply chain companies. But it’s important to note that this is far from a temporary trend; automation has been one of the propellers of digital transformation well before COVID-19 and will continue to serve as a vital technology for the industry’s IT operations well after the crisis ends.
Ireland is key launchpad for US expansion into Europe
The first transatlantic cable was laid between Newfoundland and Valentia Island in County Kerry, Ireland, in 1858. It was a flawed effort; the connection was poor, causing enough issues with efforts to send telegrams along it that major repair efforts were set underway immediately - efforts which ended up further damaging the cable line, severing the connection just three weeks later.
This first step towards transatlantic subsea communication, shaky as it was, laid the foundations of more than a century and a half of information exchange across the ocean, between the East Coast of North America and Western Ireland.
It’s been 163 years since the completion of the first transatlantic cable, an event which cemented Ireland’s position as the landing stage for subsea connections between Europe and the Americas. That position has, in no small way, been a driving force behind the country’s modern role as a landing stage for US and Canadian firms looking to do business in Europe.
Today, some of the largest firms in the world, like Pfizer, Janssen, Zurich, Metlife, Google and VmWare use Ireland for their European Headquarters. The combination of an English-speaking workforce (a boon made all the more important as Brexit makes the UK and the north of Ireland an increasingly complex environment that provides diminishing opportunities to access the rest of Europe), a cultural and regulatory landscape that welcomes foreign investment, and world-class connectivity makes the country an unparalleled choice for firms looking to establish a foothold in the EU.
As a result, Ireland has become one of the world’s leading data centre hubs.
Based on leading data centre firm Interxion’s Data Gravity Index, Dublin will be among the top five European cities that will contribute to Europe’s growth in data in the coming years, following London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. The amount of data generated in Dublin itself is expected to grow alongside its economic expansion, with the Data Gravity Index also predicting that Dublin will outpace cities and data centre hubs like Mexico City, São Paulo, and even Shanghai, to be among the top 20 cities to experience annual data growth by 2024.
Ireland ranks 6th in the 2020 EU Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), meaning that it is among the leading ranks of EU Member States in terms of the uptake and use of digital technologies. Likewise, the trend to locate data centres in Ireland serving overseas clients will continue to generate increasing amounts of international traffic
Managing the Dublin Data Boom
According to Interxion, subsea connectivity will continue to play a massive role in helping both international and domestic organisations digitally transform themselves to meet the challenges of changing markets post pandemic.
As the pace of global digital transformation - and the subsequent need for more connectivity - accelerates like never before, this rapidly developing world is driving urther demand for these cables as individuals and organisations become increasingly reliant on subsea cable’s exceptional data speed and capacity.
According to experts at Interxion, this connectivity will be pivotal to Ireland’s continued success in attracting international companies in the technology, pharmaceutical and financial sectors.
The subsea cable industry is a key contributor to the Irish economy across many sectors. The draft National Marine Planning Framework reported that subsea international networks make Ireland an attractive region for investment for the technology and digital sectors. Telegeography states that there are twelve existing subsea cables connecting Ireland to the US and UK, and a further four systems are under development. The Iish government’s statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Strategy identified Ireland as a location of choice for many different sectors reliant on digital and telecommunications capabilities, all of which in turn rely on subsea cable interconnectivity.
Subsea cables are of strategic importance to Ireland’s future as a catalyst for economic and societal prosperity. Ireland can be the ideal location for your company’s expansion plans. To find out how, you can hear from leading experts throughout the data centre and digital infrastructure industries on June 15, 2021, as speakers from the IDA, Aqua Comms, GTT Communications, euNetworks and Interxion discuss subsea cabling, digital transformation, Data Gravity and the fate of Ireland’s digital economy.
Key topics will include:
- Key facts about existing subsea infrastructure,
- Future plans,
- Challenges (including Marine Maintenance) and opportunities,
- Terrestrial networks (demand vs supply);
- Ireland's role as a gateway to Europe
The virtual panel (which is taking place between 10:30 PM - 11:30 PM JST on June 15, 2021) will conclude with a 20 minute Q&A. Mike Hollands, Senior Director of Market Development at Interxion, will moderate the event.